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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2019

Systematic review of burnout among healthcare providers in sub-Saharan Africa

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2019
Benyam W. Dubale, Lauren E. Friedman, Zeina Chemali, John W. Denninger, Darshan H. Mehta, Atalay Alem, Gregory L. Fricchione, Michelle L. Dossett, Bizu Gelaye
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12889-019-7566-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Michelle L. Dossett and Bizu Gelaye are co-senior authors

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Burnout is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion from long-term exposure to emotionally demanding work. Burnout affects interpersonal skills, job performance, career satisfaction, and psychological health. However, little is known about the burden of burnout among healthcare providers in sub-Saharan Africa.


Relevant articles were identified through a systematic review of PubMed, Web of Science (Thomson Reuters), and PsycINFO (EBSCO). Studies were selected for inclusion if they examined a quantitative measure of burnout among healthcare providers in sub-Saharan Africa.


A total of 65 articles met our inclusion criteria for this systematic review. Previous studies have examined burnout in sub-Saharan Africa among physicians (N = 12 articles), nurses (N = 26), combined populations of healthcare providers (N = 18), midwives (N = 2), and medical or nursing students (N = 7). The majority of studies assessed burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The highest levels of burnout were reported among nurses, although all healthcare providers showed high burnout. Burnout among healthcare providers is associated with their work environments, interpersonal and professional conflicts, emotional distress, and low social support.


Available studies on this topic are limited by several methodological challenges. More rigorously designed epidemiologic studies of burnout among healthcare providers are warranted. Health infrastructure improvements will eventually be essential, though difficult to achieve, in under-resourced settings. Programs aimed at raising awareness and coping with burnout symptoms through stress management and resilience enhancement trainings are also needed.
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